DWM 491 Doc Holiday!

Homework. I’ve never been a fan of it. I pretty much always did it, being something of a goody-goody, but after a day at school I’m in favour of fun stuff (or, indeed, sleep) rather than more work. (This preference for clearly defined working hours is obviously why I opted for the predictable, 9-5 career of a freelance writer.) My sons have inherited this distaste and it’s fair to say that Sunday afternoon homework sessions may be their least favourite time of the week. But all that pales in comparison with the dread holiday project, so thank goodness we didn’t have one this summer, just six weeks of relaxation. (I just made a joke. Two eight-year-olds very rarely equals relaxation.)

But, sometimes it’s fun to have a project to do – if it’s of your own choice. Something to add interest to those long summer days. So I decided to have a go at a long-planned Doctor Who project of mine regarding the characters in missing episodes and make it a family affair. The boys thought this sounded brilliant and I was thrilled. A whole summer devoted to missing episode research with my darling children! I could think of few things I’d enjoy more.

Except… reality didn’t quite match up. For a start, it turned out that they thought I was actually planning on going on a hunt for missing episodes, Indiana Jones style. I mean, I like his hat, but I’m not really up to navigating booby-trapped temples, even for The Space Pirates part five. Disabused of this notion, they then assumed it was about rediscovering monsters. ‘The monsters have disappeared! They went underground! But now they’re emerging from the shadows…’ Non-Fan Twin proclaimed dramatically. Except I had to tell them it wasn’t about that either.

We still gave it a go, but it was clear that this was not going to be a success. ‘OK, I’ve ticked off Marshal Tavannes, can we watch The Simpsons now?’ said Fan Twin with a sigh. Sadly it seems that lots of old black and white photos of interchangeable Catholics and Huguenots with beards don’t have the appeal of brightly coloured cartoon men going ‘d’oh’. Although my efforts did reap some rewards: they asked to watch some orphan episodes again. ‘Mummy! Can we watch The Celestial Toymaker: The Final Test next?’ (He used the episode title! I love him so much!)

The detective work is one of the things that most appeals to me with Doctor Who, but I’d fallen into the classic homework trap of making something seem like a chore instead of a jolly time. But there had to be something that appealed to both their love of excitement and my love of detection. And of course there is, because we’re at that wonderful time of year: the run-up to a new series! I talked about the boys’ reaction to the first trailer in last month’s column, but of course since then other bits and pieces have been being slowly drip-fed to us, not least in the pages of this wonderful mag. All those intriguing episode titles. Magicians and Witches tick exactly the right boxes with my Harry Potter-loving children – but how will Missy and UNIT fit in? And does having a character called ‘Bors’ mean we’re heading back to Desperus with its blurry plastic Screamer bats? (I’m pretty much assuming the answer is ‘no’, but I can enjoy hoping.) And how does Osgood come back – is she from the past, is she a Zygon? Exactly how will episodes 7 and 8 be a sequel to Mawdryn Undead? (Sadly we can’t hope for a return for the Brig, so I’m crossing my fingers that Turlough’s bullying turned the once-mild Ibbotson into a supervillain with a classic cars fetish.) Will Steven Moffat really outdo every previous cliffhanger with the end of Episode 11 – even Earthshock episode one or The Stolen Earth? Can’t wait to find out. Which reminds me: cliffhangers. I am overjoyed to hear there are going to be a load of multipart stories this season. That week of waiting to find out what happens next! Of dissecting and analysing every tiny bit of the story so far to try to work out where we’re going from here. That’s another detective element to Doctor Who that can’t be beaten. On a recent trip to the seaside, Fan Twin spent the car journey telling my mum about all the post-2005 multipart stories so far. It showed just how much they’d grabbed his imagination, and how much they were seared into his memory. Well, almost. My favourite bit was this slight reimagining of a scene in Utopia: ‘And all the people were like, “you need more clothes to keep you safe!” And Captain Jack was like, “I’ve got this, guys, you need less clothes!” and just wore a vest and pants and he was fine.’

My poor mum. She thought she’d seen the end of this Who stuff when I grew up! Little did she suspect that in many ways, Doctor Who fans never grow up – and when there’s this much fun to be had, who can blame us?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: my ‘holiday project’ can be found by clicking here.